Online threats target Jewish, Muslim students at Upstate school

Online threats target Jewish, Muslim students at Upstate school

SPARTANBURG COUNTY, S.C. (WYFF) —The Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office has ordered extra patrols at District Five schools because of threats made on social media towards students, district officials said.

"The Facebook threats were extremely vulgar in nature, and specifically targeted Jewish and Muslim students at Byrnes [High School]," Melissa Robinette, District Five Schools of Spartanburg County director of public relations, said in a statement Saturday afternoon.

Robinette said the student directly contacted law enforcement who interviewed the student and took screenshots of the threats.

That student, Byrnes High School Junior Johnathan Radford, contacted WYFF News 4. Radford said he was talking to the person on Facebook when the person suddenly began the threats.

Radford said he wasn't sure if it was a joke, but thought he would be held responsible if he didn't report it.

The incident report from the Sheriff's Office shows officers responded to the call about the threats Friday night. It said the person behind the posts claimed to be in Laurens, but District Five officials said the Facebook account is registered in South Dakota and they have not found the name in any of their district records.

Because of the vulgar nature of the threats, WYFF News 4 is not releasing the screenshots provided by law enforcement officials.

District officials said law enforcement officers will patrol Byrnes High School and perform random sweeps throughout the weekend to ensure security before students return after the holiday weekend. They said they have extra school resource officers with the Byrnes football team that traveled to Charlotte for a game Saturday, and they have asked for additional officers at all 12 district schools throughout next week.

Dr. Scott Turner, the district's superintendent, said in a press conference Saturday evening that the district is taking the threats very seriously.

"I was very alarmed when I saw the post and how vile some of the language was and how direct the threats were, and not only against our students but families of our students, and in today's culture, the discourse that is going on and what's happened in our own country and in other countries, we're taking it very seriously," Turner said.

The district works on safety and security all year and has security measures in place that they don't disclose to the public to keep staff and students safe, Turner said.

He also said the district is grateful the student went to law enforcement officials with the threats, and wants students and parents to feel comfortable disclosing anything they know to district officials or the Sheriff's Office.

"Don't think that it's just a joke, that someone's rant on social media, that nothing can happen from it. That's the last thing we want. We want them to take it seriously. We want them to report it to us or law enforcement like this student did so that we can follow up on it, because this is a crime, and we want to make sure he is prosecuted," Turner said.

The Sheriff's Office released a statement Saturday that said investigators are working to identify the person responsible for the threats.

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